If you’re a parent, keeping your child safe on the road is likely one of your top priorities. Fortunately, as vehicle technology and safety regulations progress, parents have more ways than ever to keep their kids safe in the car. Today, we’re looking at some of the best car safety features for children. 

Is your kid preparing to get behind the wheel themselves? Stay tuned, we’re tackling the best car safety features for teens soon.

The Must-Have Car Safety Feature for Children: A Good Car Seat

Child safety seats are probably one of the most recognizable car safety features for children. Despite that, a surprising number of parents don’t use them — a recent study by State Farm showed that almost 20% of parents didn’t use a child restraint in their vehicles. Moreover, many parents stop using car and booster seats too early. In California, for example, children are supposed to be secured in a car or booster seat until they turn eight or reach 4’9″ in height. However, according to that State Farm study, over 40% of parents for children aged six and seven reported not using a recommended child restraint. 

Picture of a person installing a booster seat as a car safety feature for children.

Long story short: Many people who should use car or booster seats don’t — perhaps because they don’t know how effective they are. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a properly-used car and/or booster seat can reduce the risk of injury in a crash by 71-82% compared to only using a seatbelt. 

In other words, if you have a child under eight years old or 4’9″, it’s more than worth investing in a good car or booster seat. So, how do you find a car or booster seat that will protect your child? You’re in luck, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has already done the hard work for you. You can find comprehensive car and booster seat rankings and best practices here

The Nice-to-Haves: Child-Safe Locks, Windows, and Sun Shades

All cars sold in the U.S. have child-safe locks on their rear doors, but their use is left up to the parents. In many newer models, a panel on the driver’s side door allows the driver to lock car doors individually, ensuring back-seat passengers don’t have access unless the driver allows it. However, some older models have a lock on the rear door instead — make sure you understand how to use your car’s child-safe locks. 

Similarly, having anti-pinch windows can be… well, maybe not a life-saver, but certainly a digit-preserver. While most newer models come with window sensors that automatically prevent a window from closing if anything is in its way, many older models do not — and car windows can easily bruise or even break a finger trapped between it and the window sill. 

If you have car with anti-pinch window sensors, you don’t need to do much. However, if you have an older model and your child is prone to danger, you may want to consider installing a rear seat mirror. It will help you quickly check and make sure no fingers are in windows before rolling them up. 

Picture of a rear-seat mirror.

Lastly, it’s easier to get sunburned through a car window than many realize. If you don’t want to go through the hassle of tinting your windows, you may want to pick up a rear-window sun-screen. Limiting sunlight exposure is particularly important for babies and toddlers, so having something that blocks the sun is a good idea for parents with younger children. 

General Tips & Recommendations: Know Your Car’s Safety Features

Do you know how many airbags your vehicle has, or where they’re located? Are your side-view mirrors properly positioned to monitor traffic next to you? Does your car have any sort of advanced driver assistance systems, and if so, are you using them to their full potential?

If your answer to any of the above was “I’m not sure…,” it’s time to break open the ol’ owner’s manual and get a bit more comfortable with your vehicle. 

For example, while many newer models come with a slew of safety features – four to six airbags, rear-view cameras, lane-change assistance, auto-braking, etc. – plenty of older models lack many or all of those systems. Knowing exactly what your car can — and can’t — do to protect your child enabled you to drive in a way that takes advantage of, or compensates for, your vehicle’s strengths and weaknesses. 

A quick aside: If you have a “tall” car, such as an SUV or truck, you should consider investing in a front camera and/or blind spot monitors for your vehicle. If your car is too tall you may not be able to see a child directly in front of (or behind) it. To learn more about dealing with front and back blind spots in tall vehicles, read this article

That about covers the car safety features for children you need to know about! Stay tuned for next week’s blog to learn more about car safety features that can help keep teens safe on and off the road. 

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